Letting go has to be one of the most difficult things to do as a parent. As we watch our kids grow and become more independent our first reaction is to try and hold on tighter. Unfortunately, this is the last thing that they want or need and only causes our kids to try to move even further away from us. The reality is teens are ready for independence a lot sooner that we, the parents, are ready to let them go.
During the teen years our job as parents is to prepare our kids for the adult world – prepare them to be able to live lives independent of us. We have to let them gain the experience they need for independent living. They need to make their own mistakes and suffer the consequences of poor decisions, as long as it is not dangerous, life-threathening or immoral.
During the first 12 years, we have taught our children how to behave. We have given them moral guidelines to follow. We have instilled values and shaped who they are. We have supported them, taught them right from wrong, dried their tears and bandaged their hurts. We have modelled how to treat others and how to take care of and speak up for themselves. Now, in the following five years, we need to let them practice what they have learned yet remain a constant support. We continue to encourage them, support them, listen to them and dry their tears while remaining non-judgemental. We offer our opinion but don’t insist that this become their way of thinking. We encourage open communication by listening without judging and by not lecturing. It is a time when we trust that we have done our job as parents in the first 12 years and now we watch this person unfold and blossom before our eyes.
Rules and curfews are no longer ENFORCED but are negotiated. Consequences are a part of life so we make sure that our teens experience the consequences of their actions: “You can drive the car as long as you put gas in it.”or “Dinner is served at 6:00 and if you are going to be late, call or else dinner will be put away.”
In a few short years, our teens may be away at university or working and living on their own. They will have to know how to take care of themselves. Our gift to them is to give them the opportunity to learn and practice these skills while still living in the caring, supportive environment of home.